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Choosing an ERP for Large Format Print (+7 Common Mistakes)

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ERP Selection & Management

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By shawn
image of a billboard as an example of large format printing, representing how to choose an ERP for large format printing

The daily grind in the large format printing business is probably all too familiar to you. Juggling a constant influx of projects, dealing with unique substrates, and coordinating complex finishing work – it’s a lot to handle and things can quickly spiral out of control without the proper systems in place.

But what if there was a way to finally get a grip on the chaos? Enter the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system tailored for large format printing operations. This powerful software brings all aspects of your business together into one unified platform – from estimating and production planning to inventory tracking and customer management.

In this guide, we’ll explore why an ERP could be an ice-breaker for your large format print shop. We’ll talk about what key features to look for, compare some top solutions on the market, and map out a plan for choosing the perfect fit. By the end, you can easily decide if investing in an ERP is the right move.

Does Your Large Format Printing Shop Really Need ERP  Software? 

But first, let’s take an honest look at some of the recurring headaches that come with running a large format print operation. You’ll also see how an ERP provides the ultimate “unfair advantage” for streamlining and optimizing those core large format print processes. 

Substrate Management

With large format, you’re dealing with a variety of materials – vinyls, fabrics, acrylics, cardboards, and more. Each has its quirks that impact print processes. Then there’s the mind-boggling task of storing and tracking all these bulky goods. An ERP with robust material and inventory tracking easily solves this.

PrintVis Substrate Management Feature

The software optimizes stock levels, reduces waste, and ensures you have the right materials ready for each job. No more mixing up canvas for wallpaper or running out of adhesive vinyl mid-project.

Production Pileup

Whether it’s a bottleneck at the finishing stage or a backlog of jobs for your prized large format printer, scheduling is a constant battle. An ERP acts as a central command center where you can view and manage every job, process, and resource in one place. 

PrintVis Status Codes Feature

You’ll see logjams before they happen and can reallocate resources to keep things flowing smoothly. No more surprise all-nighters trying to find workarounds.

File and Data Management

Large format print files are massively data-intensive – we’re talking gigs upon gigs for a single graphic. Handling these hefty files is no easy task and can strain your systems.  An ERP offers secure storage, file versioning, archiving, and automated routing between departments. You can finally stop digging through dusty backups for say that revised banner art!

Shipping and Logistics

Once your impeccable large format prints are hot off the press, the real headache begins – shipping. These large, irregular pieces are a packaging puzzle. Not to mention the logistics of coordinating specialty freight services. With ERP shipping tools, you can estimate costs, manage providers, print labels, and track shipments. 

This makes it to escape surprise freight bills that destroy your margins. 

Sales/Marketing

In large format printing, identifying the right target markets, reaching potential buyers, and pricing jobs profitably is an ongoing challenge. With so many products being highly customized, it’s extremely difficult to have any kind of standardized pricing system. Beyond just the printing costs, there are variable expenses for substrates, finishing services, installation requirements, and more. 

Without a structured way to manage this complexity, your sales and marketing efforts will constantly be shooting in the dark.

Scaling/Capacity Planning

Large format printing equipment is massive, with the floor space to match. Scaling up capacity requires a huge upfront investment in new machines and facilities. You can’t make that decision lightly. You need comprehensive data on your current production volumes, utilization rates, throughput, profitability by job type, and more. That’s the only way to ensure scaling decisions are aligned with real business demands and revenue opportunities.

Top ERP Solutions for Large Format Printing 

With those must-have features in mind, let’s run through some of the leading ERP solutions built for the large format printing world. This table provides a quick glance of the products: 

ERP SystemTarget MarketDeploymentTechnology PlatformIntegration CapabilitiesLarge Format Printing RelevanceKey Strengths for Large Format
PrintVisMid to large print shopsOn-premise or cloudBuilt on Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business CentralIntegrates with Microsoft products and other software via APIHigh – robust and ERP solution that can be tailored to the unique workflow, production, and business management needs of large format printing operations.Flexibility of the Microsoft Dynamics platform for customizing to large format needsIntegrated CRM and financial management for large format business operationsAbility to leverage Microsoft BI tools for large format business analytics
EFI PaceMid to large print shopsOn-premise or cloudProprietaryIntegrates with other EFI productsHigh – Specific features for large format workflow, including dedicated estimating tools for large format jobs and integration with EFI’s Fiery XF color management system.Robust estimating and quoting for large format jobsIntegration with EFI’s wide format printing and color management solutionsStrong scheduling and shop floor data collection for optimizing large format production
Avanti SlingshotMedium to large print companiesCloudProprietaryIntegrates with third-party software via APIMedium – Supports large format as one of multiple print workflows. Offers tools for managing large format substrates and job planning.Integrated CRM for managing large format customers and ordersScheduling and production planning tools that can handle large format jobsInvoicing and financial management for large format work
EPMSSmall to mid-size print and packaging companiesOn-premiseProprietaryIntegrates with other Neps productsMedium – Supports large format as part of a broader print ERP system. Includes tools for managing large format inventory and job costing.Robust financial management and job costing for large format workInventory management tools for tracking and optimizing large format substrate usageScalability for large volume large format operations
PrintIQMid-size to large print, packaging, and labeling companiesOn-premise or cloudProprietaryIntegrates with third-party software via APIHigh – Offers specific modules and features for large format workflow, including tools for managing installation projects and generating proofs for large format jobs.Customizable workflow automation for large format operationsTools for managing complex large format installation projectsIntegration with large format RIPs and proofing systems
TharsternSmall to mid-size print and mail operationsOn-premise or cloudProprietaryIntegrates with web-to-print and prepress systemsMedium – Supports large format as part of a broader print and packaging ERP. Includes features for estimating and planning large format jobs.– Advanced estimating capabilities that can handle complex large format jobsProduction planning and scheduling tools that can optimize large format capacityBusiness intelligence tools for analyzing large format profitability
  1. PrintVis (Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central)

 Built on Microsoft’s powerful Dynamics platform, PrintVis is an extremely flexible and scalable print MIS that can be customized to your exact large format needs – whether that’s production scheduling, material management, or quality control. Key strengths are its built-in CRM for total customer visibility, ability to leverage Microsoft’s top-notch BI tools, and full integration to the Microsoft tech stack.

PrintVis ERP System

Caption: PrintVIs Shop Floor Role Center

As an affordable cloud solution, PrintVis is quick to deploy and provides a lower total cost of ownership compared to traditional on-premise options. It’s designed to meet the printing demands of businesses of all sizes across flexo, label, wide format, apparel decoration, and other segments.

  1. ePS Pace

Formerly EFI Pace, this proven industry platform offers EFI’s most advanced large format printing tools in one robust package. Their estimating capabilities are particularly strong, expertly handling complex jobs with multiple substrates, finishing processes, and even installation services. Seamless integration with EFI’s own wide format printing and color management solutions is a huge value-add.

ePS Pace ERP System

Caption:  ePS Pace Dashboard

  1. EPMS 

While not dedicated purely to large format, EPMS deserves a look for its impressive inventory control and material optimization abilities. If your operation is higher volume, their strong job costing and financial management features could be a significant plus.

EPMS ERP System

Caption: EPMS Dashboard

  1. Avanti Slingshot

Slingshot is an attractive option for smaller shops or ones just getting started in large format. It covers the basics like scheduling jobs, managing diverse substrates, integrated estimating and customer management.

Avanti Slingshot ERP System
  1. PrintIQ

This on-premise or cloud ERP is targeted at midsize to large printers, packagers, and label companies. While not solely focused on large format, PrintIQ offers specific modules and features tailored for those workflows. This includes tools for managing complex large format installation projects and generating accurate proofs. 

PrintIQ ERP System

Caption: PrintIQ Dashboard

Key strengths are its customizable workflow automation capabilities for large format operations and pre-built integrations with popular RIPs and proofing systems in this space.

  1. Tharstern

As more of a general print and mail operations ERP, Tharstern’s core solution supports large format printing as one component. It provides features like advanced estimating tailored to handle complex large format job specs as well as production planning and scheduling tools that can optimize large format capacity. 

Tharstern ERP System

Caption: Tharstern Quotes Module

For smaller to midsize print shops that do large format work among other services, Tharstern’s comprehensive approach and business intelligence tools could be a viable option.

Key Features to Look for in an ERP for Large Format Printing

You now know the major ERP products out there, so let’s look at their essential capabilities. Top solutions like PrintVis, powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, deliver:

  • Production Planning and Scheduling: At the core is a robust job management system that lets you schedule jobs across every process – printing, finishing, installation, etc. 
PrintVis Production Planning and Scheduling Feature

With drag-and-drop planning boards and dynamic capacity calculations, you can optimize the entire workflow and adjust on the fly as priorities shift.

  • Material and Inventory Control: The system should make substrate management easy with centralized inventory tracking, automated reorder notifications, and barcode scanning. 
PrintVis Material and Inventory Control Feature

Being able to forecast material needs and optimize stock levels is huge for large format work.

  • Estimating and Quoting: Look out for advanced cost estimation and quoting tools like the ones PrintVis offer . They’ll let you quickly generate accurate quotes factoring in all those complicated large format pricing variables – material costs, finishing labor, transport fees, and more. PrintVis even lets you edit quotes, a feature you’ll find handy if for instance, you need to alter information to match a customer’s price
PrintVis Estimating and Quoting Feature
  • Quality Control: Look for features that help you maintain high quality and comply with industry standards. This might include tools for managing color profiles, tracking quality metrics, and ensuring compliance with regulations. PrintVis includes comprehensive quality control modules to keep your prints top-notch. For instance, you can decide whether or not QA questions should be mandatory or not for the pressman or operator. 
PrintVis Quality Control Feature
  • Customer Management: With an integrated CRM tied directly to your production workflows, you can impress clients with streamlined ordering, automated job status updates, and precise pricing. Having all that intel in one place is gold.
  • System Integration: Your ERP needs to play nice with your other critical tools – prepress software, shipping providers, accounting systems, etc. Solutions like PrintVis print management information system (MIS) boast full integration to the Microsoft tech stack via APIs for a seamless ecosystem.

How to Choose the Right ERP for Your Large Format Printing Business

Picking the perfect ERP for your large format business doesn’t have to be overwhelming despite the many available options. Here are the key things to looks out for:

  • Functionality: Ensure the ERP can handle the unique estimating and quoting requirements of large format jobs. Look for tools that manage scheduling, production planning, shop floor data collection, shipping, and logistics. PrintVis excels in providing specialized functionalities for large format printing.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: As your print empire expands, your ERP needs to be able to grow and adapt seamlessly. That means easily adding new user seats, handling increased order volumes or revenues, and being customizable enough to evolve processes without redevelopment costs. 
  • Industry Expertise: You’ll want an ERP partner with deep expertise serving the large format printing market. They should understand the nuances and be equipped to support tailored workflows. Don’t settle for a general manufacturing ERP that claims to handle large format as an afterthought.
  • Technology Integration: Decide whether you need a cloud-based, on-premise, or hybrid system. Check the underlying technology platform and how often updates and new features are released. Your ideal ERP solution should integrate with your other mission-critical software. PrintVis, powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, offers flexibility in deployment options and regular updates to keep your system current.
  • Implementation and Support: ERP deployments can be complex, so look for ERP vendors that provide comprehensive training, hand-holding implementation, and reliable support to ensure a smooth transition and continued success.
  • Cost: Budget is obviously a factor too. Cloud options like PrintVis provide a lower total cost of ownership than traditional on-premise, but avoid making cost the sole deciding factor over functionality fit.

Questions to Ask Your Print ERP Consultant or Vendor

Successful implementations take a lot of planning and attention to detail. Given the costs and timelines, it is prudent to have someone with deep expertise in implementation, who has the benefit of having done this multiple times. Make sure you choose the right ERP consultant or vendor and avoid the seven most common oversights by asking these questions:

  1. Print Industry Specialization
    • How long has your company been serving the printing industry?
    • Do you have specific features or modules designed for large format printing workflows?
  2. Functionality
    • Can your system handle the unique estimating and quoting requirements of large format jobs, such as managing multiple substrates, finishing options, and installation services?
    • How does your system manage the scheduling and production planning for large format work?
    • What tools does your system offer for shop floor data collection and real-time production tracking of large format jobs?
    • How does your system handle the complex shipping and logistics often involved with large format jobs?
    • Can your system manage the color standards and profiles specific to large format printing?
  3. Technology and Architecture
    • Is your system cloud-based, on-premise, or hybrid?
    • What is the underlying technology platform of your system?
    • How often do you release updates and new features?
    • What are your system’s capabilities for integration with other software used in large format printing operations, such as RIPs, color management systems, and prepress tools?
  4. Scalability
    • How well can your system scale to handle the data and transaction volume of a growing large format operation?
    • What are the upper limits of your system’s capacity in terms of users, transactions, and data storage?
  5. Implementation and Support
    • What does the typical implementation process and timeline look like for a business of our size and complexity?
    • What kind of training and support do you provide during and after implementation?
    • Do you have experience implementing your system in large format printing operations similar to ours?
    • What are your support hours and response time guarantees?
  6. Costs and ROI
    • What is the total cost of ownership for your system, including any upfront costs, recurring fees, upgrade costs, and hidden costs?
    • What kind of ROI have other large format printing businesses realized with your system?
    • Can you provide case studies or references from large format printing companies using your system?
  7. Product Roadmap and Vision
    • What is your vision for the future development of your product?
    • How do you stay ahead of the evolving needs of the large format printing industry?
    • What new features or enhancements are on your product roadmap that could benefit large format printers?

It’s important to insist on live demonstrations of the system handling your company’s specific workflows and data.

Fix Disconnected Processes in Your Large Format Printing Shop

At the end of the day, the right large format printing ERP provides a unified, digital backbone to streamline and optimize all your core processes. And if you’re ready to take that leap, solutions like PrintVis powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central check all the boxes. Its flexibility to customize for unique large format needs, affordable pricing model, and quick deployment timelines make it an attractive option for businesses like yours looking to drive productivity and profit margins.

Our team of experts can guide you through evaluating if an ERP like PrintVis is the right fit, and ensure a smooth implementation tailored to your large format operations. Book a demo with our team to learn more about how PrintVis can transform your large format printing workflows.

shawn walter

Account Executive New Jersey